Profiles in Science - Laura Pan and Jim Crawford (NASA)


Atmospheric Composition and the Asian Monsoon (ACAM) is an international scientific activity that focuses on atmospheric chemistry and transport associated with the Asian monsoon region spanning south, southeast, and east Asia.  Interest in ACAM-related science attracts scientists from Asia, North America, and Europe to workshops held biennially:

2013 Kathmandu, Nepal
2015 Bangkok, Thailand
2017 Guangzhou, China
2019 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


The most recent gathering in Guangzhou drew 160 attendees from 19 countries for the week-long workshop (Figure 1). The activity includes working groups focused on improving data sharing, planning and coordination of field campaigns, connecting with the global modeling community, and operating training schools for early career scientists. ACAM is jointly sponsored by two international science organizations, SPARC and IGAC.

How the collaboration started:

The genesis of ACAM was borne out of a failed effort to conduct a field campaign to study the Asian monsoon’s impact on atmospheric composition with flights over South Asia in 2012. Plans for the SEAC4RS field campaign (Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study) brought Laura Pan of ACOM and Jim Crawford of NASA Langley Research Center together as two of the primary science leads planning the ambitious study. Their hopes were dashed when the campaign fell victim to geopolitical issues that prevented access to the airspace over countries in South Asia.

In the face of this setback, Laura and Jim recognized that despite the global importance of the issues to be addressed, access to the Asian monsoon region required building stronger relationships between Asian scientists and the international community of atmospheric scientists as well as a commitment to more collaborative approaches that engage local scientists. During the time that SEAC4RS was to take place, Laura and Jim attended the 12th IGAC science conference in Beijing where they convened a hastily scheduled side meeting to gauge interest in the idea of ACAM. The response was overwhelming and enabled the first ACAM workshop to be held in Kathmandu, Nepal, only nine month later in June 2013. The workshop was attended by 120 participants representing 17 countries, including 12 Asian countries, and 5 countries from Europe and North America.

Results of the collaboration:

Laura Pan and Jim Crawford have organized two more successful ACAM workshops, in Bangkok, Thailand (175 participants) and in Guangzhou, China (160 participants). In addition to bringing the latest progress in research on the topic of atmospheric composition coupling to the monsoon dynamics, the workshop series has also served additional goals:

1. Community building among Asian countries themselves, and between the emerging community of atmospheric scientists in Asia and the established scientific communities in Europe and North America.

2. Capacity building. Early career scientists receive funding to attend the conference from IGAC and SPARC. In several cases post-doctoral scientists were able to connect with veteran researchers with decades of experience. Training Schools organized and led by senior ACAM scientists have also been conducted in conjunction with ACAM workshops.

3. Information exchange. ACAM participants seek and discover opportunities to share data, instruments, and observations of the monsoon and how it affects global composition and climate.

4. Forge partnerships and collaborations. The ACAM activities have made it possible for European and North American scientists to find local scientific partners, resulting in successful collaboration on field experiments. Local collaborators have assisted with logistical concerns and have advocated for direct access to the region, thereby facilitating the measurements critically needed for assessing the global impact of Asian emissions.

ACAM 2017 workshop in Guangzhou, China
Figure 1. ACAM 2017 workshop in Guangzhou, China. The four scientists at center front are: Guy Brasseur (ACOM), Jim Crawford (NASA), Xuemei Wang (JNU, the local committee chair), and Laura Pan (ACOM). Students in yellow T-shirts are local volunteers. Click for larger image.

Three biennial ACAM workshops and two associated training schools have brought together a total of more than 450 students and researchers from 18 Asian countries and 7 European and North American countries. Jim and Laura have witnessed a flowering of scientific collaborations between Asian and European/North American scientists, as well as among atmospheric scientists in Asia. Regional scientists have gained increasing access to participate in international studies, and there are extended scientific visits between scholars from India and China.

ACAM activities will continue with two new Co-Chairs in 2019. The next ACAM workshop will take place in June 2019 at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.